How To Create Your Very Own Crossword Puzzle

from McSweeney’s

Recently, I got my very first crossword puzzle accepted by a real-life newspaper. Since this basically means that I’m a puzzle-making genius (and not, you know, super unqualified to write this kind of article), I thought I’d share some tips on how to make the best crossword puzzle ever. Enjoy!

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13 Responses to How To Create Your Very Own Crossword Puzzle

  1. Allya Jaquez March 21, 2019 at 9:06 pm #

    Well before reading this I honestly thought creating a crossword puzzle would not be difficult at all but I was definitely wrong. I also really enjoyed the fact that Dan Caprera was very open and honest about how he accomplished the crossword and he even stated the fact that it was pretty hard and took a while. To begin with, I did not even think you would need a specific type of technology to create a crossword puzzle. I figured everything would be done on a regular laptop. I do not think I would even be able to start one because of how complicated everything is. Before submitting a crossword, it all has to be perfect!

  2. Lillie Moran March 21, 2019 at 11:18 pm #

    It is not common for people to read the newspaper everyday, but one part of the morning paper constantly attracts attention to all different types of people- the crossword section. Today, crossword puzzles are most commonly known from the app, Words with Friends, however, it is now possible and easy for anyone to make their own crossword. When reading this article I found it very interesting how the first step in creating the puzzle is that fact that you must “Get the right technology.” I found this to be interesting solely because in order to do anything these days, you have to have some sort of technology in order to help you. What I also found very interesting about this article is the fact that it may seem easy to create a crossword puzzle, there are many steps to be taken, most of which are very particular in order to be successful in completing one. For example, there is a word limit. This is then explained by identifying a very particular measure of crossword puzzle, showing that there can only be a maximum of 78 words. This may seem like common sense, but it is harder than it looks. When reading this article, it reminded me of things I do everyday, not necessarily related to crossword puzzles. As a business major, you are always going to have a goal, and in order to achieve this goal, there are certain steps and precautions one must take in order to become successful. When you enter the real word and start taking responsibility within your job, you are going to be faced with many difficult situations, some of which seem almost impossible to solve, but it is your responsibility to figure out and come up with solutions. Solving a dispute in the workplace is just like creating a crossword puzzle- you have to figure out what to do in order to solve something. I found this article to be very relate able in this sense. It took the reader step-by-step through what needed to be done in order to be successful; however, in the real world, you won’t always have that. Think of when you are solving a crossword puzzle- you don’t always have the right answers, but you have to keep trying things in order to find it. You are not always going to be handed rules and regulations to do something, so you must resort to trial and error kind of thinking.

    Overall, I found this article to be very different from the articles that are usually posted. Most of the time, the articles have some relation to digital privacy or AI, but this time, the article spoke more towards problem solving and applying everyday activities to real-world scenarios.

  3. Trovonta Burgess March 22, 2019 at 2:02 pm #

    From a young age, kids begin completing crossword puzzles in and out of the classroom. They have been known to help teach different words while stimulating the brain at the same time. They are also really beneficial because they can improve memory, motor skills and brain function in children and older adults. In this article, it discussed all the necessary steps to complete a crossword puzzle and get it published in a newspaper. This was something that I had never really thought of but have seen multiple times in newspapers next to the Sudoku puzzles. When one thinking about making a crossword puzzle it seems like a really basic concept that is easy to master but from reading this, there is more than just thinking of words. It explained that sometimes it requires a certain software which auto-formats the correct number of squares. While creating a crossword puzzle seemed like common sense to me when planning to have it published more rules apply. Starting with choosing a theme that will allow for symmetrical entries. Moving on to not repeating words and including pictures which both appeared redundant to me. Although a difference between elementary and professional crossword puzzles are the added in black squares that add a boarded and must also be placed symmetrically. Another unknown fact is that they placed a word limit on the puzzles, depending on the size of the themed or unthemed puzzle. Then after choosing the selected words to be used, there is a certain way to fill in the rest of the boxes with words and letters not pertaining to the crossword puzzle itself. An lastly are the clues are the last steps to complete before sending it into the newspaper company. Sometimes the clues can make or break a puzzle based on the difficulty and word usage to describe the actual word. That’s why there are rules placed around how rules are formatted as well, having to be short but somewhat easily identifiable. There were actually a few new things that I learned about crossword puzzles that I’d never really considered before.

  4. Dylan Flego March 22, 2019 at 7:37 pm #

    As a kid growing up, I always noticed my parents doing the crossword puzzles in the Sunday papers. Of course, I also enjoyed doing crosswords on my own because they challenged me to think of various different words that would fit both the letter count and the criteria of the clues. However, creating a crossword puzzle of my own always seemed relatively difficult, especially without the proper technology to assist in making the physical puzzle. Even now, reading through this article makes me realize several aspects of the entire process of devising a crossword puzzle that I originally never gave thought to. For instance, the restriction of a word limit never struck my mind. Nowadays, we have hundreds of applications thanks to technological advancements that allow us to not only create personalized crossword puzzles, but also other puzzles like word searches (although this one can still be easily made without the assistance of an abundance of technology). Another fairly interesting point I took away from the article was the advice for how to create appropriate clues. Having the clues as short and sweet keeps the puzzle much more manageable for those trying to solve it. Overall, while there were some neat new things I learned about creating a crossword puzzle, what I believe is the most interest aspect of this all is the relation to technology from the very beginning. When someone thinks of a crossword puzzle, they are not likely to immediately relate it to technology, but considering the algorithms needed to properly establish the puzzle’s layout, an online resource would typically be needed. It may not be surprising to some, but the large presence of technology in almost everything we do from performing daily functions to making a fun little crossword puzzle really shows how reliant society is on it.

  5. Demetri Allen March 22, 2019 at 7:56 pm #

    Well, I never expected myself to be reading an article about how to make a crossword puzzle but here I am. First off, I found myself really enjoying this article, Dan Caprera writes in a very comedic way but at the same time is also informative. I actually had no idea the number of steps that go into making a crossword puzzle. Personally, I am more of a word search kind of guy but throughout my public education experience, I have come across a large number of crossword puzzles. Most of the time they came from my teachers and had words that related to the topic of discussion as the theme. However, I was not aware that the standard crossword puzzle is 15 x 15 and that the words need to all be the same length. It is hard to believe newspapers won’t expect otherwise but it makes sense. Some of my teachers broke the rules and reused words now and then but luckily none of them put pictures into. When I first read about the black boxes part, I was a little confused. Most crossword puzzles I had done only had space for the actual words and had no filler boxes inside them so that was another fact I didn’t know. I had no idea that there was a word limit, but I figured there is only a limited amount of space for the puzzle. I also always wished the clues were longer so I would have a better chance of getting the answer but nevertheless, It is still an important part. All in all, this was a very well-made tutorial that actually made me learn something I didn’t know about. Not sure if it is going to turn me from favoring word searches but it was still a neat read regardless.

  6. Divyaa Sarin March 22, 2019 at 8:13 pm #

    When I was younger, I always attempted to complete crossword puzzles, however I never succeeded. Completing crossword puzzles take time and patience just like creating them. After reading this article, I never thought creating a crossword puzzle would have a certain criterion to follow. I found it interesting how crossword puzzles have certain specific themes which all the words comply too. Usually the crossword puzzles I attempted in the past were random words. Since technology is very popular, crossword puzzles are usually found in newspapers which means people don’t really pay attention to them. Our generation today doesn’t really focus on crossword puzzles as much as the older generation. Crossword puzzles are an exercise to increase more vocabulary and knowledge.

    Crossword puzzles actually require technology in order to be made! I find this surprising because I would have never thought a certain software would be needed to create these. There are many rules one must follow in order to create a crossword puzzle. The rule that stood out to me the most was that there can be no repetition of words. I found this surprising because when I tried to do crossword puzzles in the past, I actually repeated some words. I remember attempting some crossword puzzles in different language! In one of my Spanish classes in high school, my teacher actually created one. It was very difficult compared to English ones. The point of the exercise was to enhance our vocabulary. Some of the difficulties lie in the clues provided. If the clues in crossword puzzles weren’t as difficult, anyone could complete a crossword puzzle!

    Crossword puzzles are definitely unique based upon the creator! It is amazing to actually read how the process of creating a crossword puzzles takes as much effort as attempting to finish one. I think our generation should bring back crossword puzzles because they beneficial. If I was younger and actually completed crossword puzzles, then my vocabulary would have definitely been better than it is now!

  7. Melissa Caniz March 22, 2019 at 9:01 pm #

    In my opinion, Crossword Puzzles are not the most fun activity that there is. I personally don’t like them because they are too hard at least for me, they tend to play games with my head, I may think its one word but then turns out that it’s not. To be able to complete a cross-world puzzle one must be knowledgeable in words, meaning they must love literature some way or another. I do not like writing, reading an article or a book can be interpreted in many ways. Unlike math which has a solid answer like 1+1=2, it is very straight forward. But now to the people that do like crossword puzzles, having a guide on how to create one is important because just like having an academic mentor is essential to guide you through college they know what they’re doing. Dan Carpera as we see in the article is an expert in writing crossword puzzles, solving them is a pain, now I imagine creating one must be tough. I see it as solving a puzzle to create a puzzle, which makes sense because you cannot just throw words and hope that they will eventually make sense on their own, there is a secret behind this and Carpera does an outstanding job in detailing those steps to create a personal crossword puzzle. Having a guide to creating a crossword puzzle makes it just a tiny bit easier, but the process to put those steps together is the hard part. It’s like in school an academic adviser can give you any tips on how to handle certain things or go about other things but how you take those bits of advice and apply it to reality is a different story. It is not always easy juggling school with other factors in life like going out with friends or going to the gym, we teens love multitasking, and we think it’s efficient, but it’s not. Having a guide by your side is helpful when it comes to accomplishing a goal because as a freshman in college everything is new and having someone by your side to take you through the process step by step is a relief. Crossword puzzles may be fun to others and even serve as a stress relief so for those crossword fans, now you can create your own and challenge a friend.

  8. Trevaughn March 22, 2019 at 9:30 pm #

    This was a pretty interesting article being that Dan caprera doesn’t seem like someone who would want to build something so complicated and also I never knew how hard it was to make a simple crossword puzzle. You can find a crossword puzzle in almost any store but I guess having your own crossword puzzle published in a news paper takes more than just coming up with words that fit inside a box also, Dan sound as if he was being sarcastic in telling his story so, I can’t tell if he is being serious about the making of it. Personally I don’t read the news paper because I can just go online. This story does make me wonder how someone would even find making a crossword puzzle amusing. One question raised in my head is if a crossword puzzle requires a website to help create then how were they made before technology was around or was crossword puzzles invented after technology but using logic I’m guessing there had to be a crossword made or something similar that enticed the making of it. After reading this article I now have much more respect for the people who take the time out to make them since it requires math and technology with hints as well. Sudoku is a similar game that I find a bit more interesting then crossword puzzles and I can only imagine what the criteria for getting those in the newspaper are. I’ve found that doing crossword puzzles are not that challenging and I personally feel like I’m getting absolutely nothing out of it except once when the hint had to do with a cartoon that I use to always watch and the answer I gave was wrong even though I would have bet my life that i was right and come to find out, “I was right!” and the crossword puzzle was wrong but because the answer did not fit in the blocks I was forced to put that answer there. With Sudoko you can easily tell if your answer is right or wrong because it’s a patter. But still, the process in creating a crossword is very interesting because it doesn’t seem like it would be.

  9. Madyson Y. March 24, 2019 at 9:26 pm #

    It is nine o’clock in the morning on a Sunday; you turn on the news channel, brew your coffee, and sit down at the kitchen table trying to tackle this week’s crossword puzzle in the newspaper. While trying to complete the puzzle, you simply just read the clues listed and try your best at answering each one. Never has the thought crossed your mind about who created this puzzle or how many rules it takes for that person to get their crossword puzzle published. In the article “How to Create Your Very Own Crossword Puzzle”, Dan Caprera goes into detail about all of the steps and rules it took for him to finally get his own puzzle published in a newspaper.
    If you are looking to create and publish a crossword sometime in the future, the first step in doing so is to have the proper software, Caprera notes Crossfire or Crossword Compiler as the two best. The next step is to design a theme, the most important part of the crossword, without it, the puzzle would not make any sense. The theme can be as simple as “springtime” or “household items”. When deciding between themes, there are rules that must be followed. The very first is to make sure the puzzle is symmetrical, meaning each answer to the clue should match the grid and the length. The next two rules are pretty self-explanatory; simply make sure you do not repeat any words and do not include pictures.
    The third step is to add in the black squares. Whenever I would do a crossword puzzle I never knew why those squares were there and what their purpose on the puzzle was. These little black squares serve a big purpose because it breaks up the answers from each other. There are also a lot of rules that need to be followed when figuring out where to place these squares. Just like the answers, the blocks need to be symmetrical as well. Also, words cannot be shorter than three letters, so blocks should not be closer than four spaces. Another rule is to make sure that a white block is always touching a black block. If this does not occur, you are sectioning off a piece of the puzzle and would not look continuous. There also is a maximum word count, 72 words on a normal 15 x 15 puzzle and 140 words on the Sunday puzzles.
    Step four is to fill in the words. This step is the lengthiest one, so you need to have patience. After doing this, you are now ready for step five: writing the clues. The rule with this one is to make your clues short and to the point. For example, if you are creating a puzzle with springtime as the topic, you clue for flower can be dandelions or hydrangeas. Another rule you need to follow is that each clue needs to be factual. You cannot have your clue as “odd” and the answer to the puzzle be “two”. The final step is to send it off to the publisher with the puzzle and your headshot and hope for the best.

  10. Kayla Clavijo March 29, 2019 at 8:43 pm #

    In the article “How to Create Your Very Own Crossword Puzzle”, Dan Caprera describes all of the necessary steps and rules it took for him to finally get his own crossword puzzle published in a newspaper. Personally, I had no idea the number of steps and rules crossword puzzles require. To begin with, it may seem easy to others, including myself when creating a crossword puzzle, however there are many steps to be taken, most of which are very particular in order to be successful in completing one. After reading the article, I found it very interesting how the first step in creating the puzzle is that fact that you must “Get the right technology.” I completely agree because this world revolves around technology. In order to do anything, technology will always play a role. In fact, each year I buckle-in and get myself set for all the new and wondrous technological innovations that will materialize – and each year, I am not disappointed! There can be no doubt that technology makes the world go ‘round, as it has in all its previous years as well as in the years to come.

    In addition, in order for a crossword puzzle to be published in the newspaper, the standard crossword puzzle should have a theme, it should be 15 x 15, the words need to all be the same length, pictures are not allowed, black border squares has to be placed symmetrically, grid has to be continuous , and the puzzle should always include short, accurate clues. Whether I was analyzing a crossword puzzle or solving one, none of these tips never crossed my mind. However, there is one thing I can say about crossword puzzles, they are excellent tools in which helps improve my memory skills and change many of my habits. I have a habit of doing the New York Times crossword puzzle most days of the week. Even if there were no benefits beyond the activity itself, I would still indulge in it. But lately I’ve been noticing how this pleasant activity teaches a set of attitudes that is actually useful for successful habit change. When it comes to crossword puzzles, taking a short break can restore your brainpower, enabling you to see a mistake or find an answer. It’s amazing how solvable a crossword problem can be once you’ve stepped away from it and returned. Yes, I do understand making errors in the crossword grid can be frustrating and annoying, however the more you do puzzles, the more fun it is to track down your errors and correct them. Crosswords puzzles also helps connect concepts with vocabulary. For this reason, I see why for some people, creating a crossword puzzle is just as rewarding as solving one.

    Overall, it seems to me that the process of creating a puzzle can either be very simple, or very involved, depending on your interest level. After reading this article, I am motivated to create a crossword puzzle and send it off to a publisher. Of course, I am very nervous however, it doesn’t hurt to try. Indeed, it does takes time, patience and effort to create the perfect crossword puzzle therefore I must follow each step carefully. Another thing I would advise many people to do is if you are lonely, depressed, anxious, or bored, just open a newspaper or go online and solve a crossword puzzle. This will help you to relax, keep your mind engaged, and just have fun! If you are not a puzzle person, you don’t have to be. Just give crossword puzzles a try and you’ll be hooked in no time!

  11. Abdulrafay Amir April 2, 2019 at 11:45 am #

    You can discover a crossword puzzle in almost anyways and I believe having your own crossword puzzle featured in a paper takes something beyond thinking of words that would fit inside. By and by I don’t peruse the newspaper since I can simply go on the web. This story makes me wonder how somebody would even discover making a crossword bewilder interesting. One thing that popped up in my mind is on the off chance that a crossword puzzle needs a site to support make, at that point how were they made before innovation was near or was crossword confuses designed after innovation however utilizing rationale, I’m speculating there must be a crossword made or something comparable that allured its creation. In the wake of perusing this article I presently have substantially more regard for the general population who take the time out to make them since it requires math and innovation with insights also. Sudoku is a comparative diversion that I discover more fascinating then crossword puzzles and I can just envision what the criteria for getting those in the paper are. I’ve discovered that doing crossword puzzles are not excessively testing and I for one feel like I’m receiving literally nothing in return aside from once being able to find the appropriate words that can fit in the squares.

  12. Santiago Gomez April 5, 2019 at 8:34 pm #

    After reading the article found that making a crossword puzzle is just as hard or maybe even harder than solving one. Dan Caprera was very specific on what steps to create for the crossword puzzle. In my honest opinion, I find crossword puzzles very challenging, I’ve done some in the past and never able to complete it. Just finding easy four-letter words. Creating and solving a crossword puzzle takes time and effort. In which I do not have to input into a crossword puzzle. Just makes me wonder if people really have the time to create a crossword puzzle? It just may seem they are bored out of their mind and have nothing else to do. But the article is fascinating since it demonstrates what is needed to create a crossword puzzle. But what the article does not say is the time and effort is needed to create one.

  13. Niall El-Adawy May 5, 2019 at 11:30 pm #

    I definitely did not think this much time and thinking went in to building a crossword puzzle, nor did I realize that an entire software is necessary in order to initiate the process in general. The article was very informative and entertaining to read, and went very in-depth about what necessary steps are needed in making a crossword puzzle, however the article never clarified how much time is necessary to be put into something like making a crossword puzzle. The process to complete a crossword puzzle seems tedious which makes me wonder if the difficulty of the task is coupled with a lot of time and dedication.

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